Itís not what youíve done thatís important; itís what they think youíve done.
by Robert Fox
Youíve centre torn; they think youíve just applied your years of research into psychology and NLP (which you happened to mention prior to the trick) to pick up on their signals and decipher the word you asked them to repeat in their mind, concentrating on specific letters throughout, but trying not to give anything away.
Therefore the importance of any trick is this: what do you want the audience to believe has happened at the end of it. What they believe has happened will affect how much they appreciate the trick, in what context, their questioning of the method and ultimately their opinion of you as a performer. Let us take the classic Invisible Deck:
Imagine the simplest of presentations, the performer asks the spectator to hold the deck and merely name a card. The named card is the only card overturned in the deck. The reaction will no doubt be good, due to the fact that the Invisible Deck is an excellent invention, not to mention one of the greatest outs to ever exist (one obviously only imagines as having never required the use of an out in oneís career!).
After the trick the audience are left with the following predicaments: is that just a special deck of some kind, did I just name an obvious card, does he just do it on people until someone chooses the right card (television audience).
However, imagine a varied approach to proceedings.
The performer introduces himself in his usual charming manor and establishes rapport with his spectator. He offers his hand for greeting and places the participant into an instant induction (for any oblivious, this is an apparent state of instant hypnosis induced by the performer but nothing more than the spectator merely sitting with their eyes closed and their hand over their face Ė but hey itís not what youíve done thatís important; itís what they think youíve done). Whilst the spectator remains in such a Ďstateí the performer explains to them how such a state enables him to more easily gain rapport and influence their decisions. After a reasonable amount of spiel, throwing in a little Wonder Words (by Kenton Knepper) if one so wishes, the performer asks the spectator to hold a deck of cards and focus on a childhood memory that elicits all the emotions of safety and security enabling enhanced responsiveness. He explains to the spectator that he will count from one to three and snap his fingers, at which point a card will enter their mind; they wonít know where it came from or why they chose it but it will just feel right. One, two, three Ė snap. What card? Excellent, just felt right yeah, good. He brings the spectator out of the Ďstateí and ensures theyíre ok. Amazingly, unbelievably, extraordinarily, the card named is the only one overturned in the deck.
After the trick the audience believe that you have cleverly, possibly with the aid of hypnosis of some kind, placed a desired card into the spectators mind in a very engaging manor. They certainly wonít be deliberating the prospect of a special deck or a popular card (believe me).
Alternatively, another approach:
The performer is half way through an enthralling set at a table and turns to one of the spectators (usually the most attractive female Ė purely for rapport purposes) and looks them intently in the eye and says ĎOk since arriving at the table Iíve been trying to implant a card into your mind, this has been purely on a subconscious level and you shouldnít really have been aware of it. Now this doesnít always work, so donít dislike me if thatís the case, but just now without thinking just look me right in the eye and name a card, without thinking, it will just feel absolutely right to youÖí The card selected is the only overturned card in the deck. Again, the last thing on their mind is special decks or popular cards.
Genuinely, Iíve received some of the most moving and astounding reactions from the previous presentations of the Invisible Deck Ė essentially an easy, self-working (and brilliant) gimmick deck. Purely, the reasoning is entering the perspective of the spectator and asking yourself what you want them to believe has happened at the end of the trick.
Itís important to note that approaches discussed are performance choices Iíve decided to adopt and develop because they work for me and my style. I would encourage beyond comprehension that performers should only adopt approaches and methods that fit their style of performance.
An additional note about the Invisible Deck and one of which I take no credit, however, its origins are not of my knowledge, is to place an X on every even card. The result is that if an even card is selected I would say ďI not only overturned a card in the deck, but I also placed a cross through it.í Alternatively, if an odd cardís selected I would announce ĎIíve crossed out all the ones I didnít want you to choose, see, all except for one which I left overturned and didnít cross out.í It works well, trust me - Iíll now leave you to scamper for that marker pen.
© Robert Fox, June 2005